Have you decided to make your wedding ceremony a non-religious affair? This happens mainly when the bride and the groom have been raised in two different faith traditions; such couples usually want to make sure that none of the faiths are part of their wedding. Non-religious wedding ceremony becomes the choice also when individuals looking to tie their knot weren’t raised in any particular faith. Whatever might be the reason, one thing that you must keep in mind when making such a choice is that crafting a secular wedding is not an easy task; particularly, arranging really meaningful non-religious wedding rituals is really difficult. The good news is that there are several ways of making a secular wedding ceremony special. The ceremony ideas below would surely make the process easier for you.
1. Narrate your love story
According to experienced interfaith ministers, there cannot be a better way of setting the mood of a wedding ceremony than narrating the couple’s love story. When someone decides to marry a person who doesn’t belong to his or her own faith, the bond turns out to be only about love. This makes telling the couple’s love story a pretty meaningful wedding ritual. To make the story interesting, the interfaith minister should include all the most loving, sappiest, and silliest moments of your journey of togetherness. The story would not only leave your guests deeply fascinated, but you and your would-be spouse will also find the experience of listening to your own story absolutely enthralling.
2. Reading out letters from faraway guests
You must have several close family members and dear friends who live in faraway territories of this world, which makes it almost impossible for them to attend your wedding. Including those loved ones in your wedding ceremony would surely make a great nonreligious ritual. Encourage them to write notes and letters for you. When recited on the wedding day those letters and notes would reveal significant facts (which might be unknown even to you) about you and leave your guests and would-be spouse completely mesmerized.
3. Wedding vows
Making vows on the wedding day is no more a ritual limited just to the bride and the groom. These days, we see even the guests join the couple in making vows. For instance, nowadays, often when the couple finishes making their vows, the wedding officiant says the following, “Now that you have heard the couple (name them) making their vows, do you promise to keep encouraging them, guide them, support them, and love them and thereby help them in keeping the promise they have made to each other?”
In case of blended families, reciting vows to the spouse’s children is also a good way of adding an emotional touch to the wedding ceremony. Find out how a groom’s vows to the bride’s kids can look like; you can read out the following things to your newlywed wife’s children:
“I and your mother first became good friends and then slowly started loving each other. Today, I cannot think of living without her and so I would like to thank you for sharing this amazing woman with me so graciously. I will keep loving your mother and share the same feelings with you. I promise to put in my best efforts to know more about you and learn your respect, friendship, and love. I would always be honest and fair and remain available to you, in the same manner I keep myself available to your mother. I will never try to replace any other person in your lives, but will aim at making a separate space for me in your lives and hearts.”
A similar vow can be recited even by the bride to the kids of the groom. Even the kids can recite their own vows. For instance, the officiant might ask them a few questions, to which they may respond with “I do”. Some examples of such questions include:
• “Do you pledge to support this marriage?”
• “Do you pledge to love the new family and care for it the way you used to care for the previous one?”
4. Communal ring blessing
It’s common for a wedding officiant to blend the rings the to-be-wedded couple would exchange; that’s actually a long practiced wedding tradition in several religions. So, what should one do if it’s not a religious wedding ceremony? Would it be wise to omit the ring blessing ritual altogether? We feel, instead of skipping the ritual, you can consider having your friends and family members bless the rings. This twisted form of the ritual might be simple but is extremely powerful. Ideally, the rings should be placed in a box or pouch (it must be a good looking decorative piece and must complement the grandeur of the event) and sent from one guest to another. The guests would hold the pouch/box and offer a prayer silently. This fills the rings with lots of warmth and blessings; that’s the reason why the ceremony is often referred to as the “ring warming ceremony”.
5. Sand pouring
Experts say that this ritual symbolizes the eternal wedlock of the couple. To complete this ritual, two vases will first be filled with sand. At times, couples bring sand from their home state or native country for this particular ritual. The majority them also make sure that the sand used for filling the two vases are different in color. The ceremony requires the couple to pour the sand in the two separate vases into a single large vase. The sand, once poured into the larger vase, create a distinctive pattern, which makes the two sand types absolutely indistinguishable.
6. Planting a tree (alternately you can also bury a bottle of liquor)
If it’s a non-religious wedding ceremony, practicing this ritual is a must. Trees symbolize a series of things in secular weddings. They are living organisms both penetrate the sky and the earth. Trees are always as healthy and strong as their foundation and although they can grow big, cutting them down is not very difficult. These are qualities even a marriage should possess. A marriage should have a strong foundation and problems, however big they may be, should get cut down without much fuss. So, nature lovers looking to have a secular wedding can consider arranging a tree planting ceremony on the wedding day.
There’s a widely practiced variation of tree planting. It’s actually a traditional ritual practiced at Southern weddings. It involves burying a bottle of bourbon instead of planting a tree. This ritual might appear to be a bit murky to some, but the fact is that it is done for ensuring that the weather remains bright and sunny on the wedding day. The ritual would require you to bury an unopened liquor bottle (pick your favorite brew) at your wedding venue. Once the wedding ceremony is over, you can dig the bottle up, open it, and drink the brew along with your friends, family members, and spouse.
You definitely reserve the right of adapting both the above-mentioned traditions according to your own preferences. For instance, instead of planting a tree, you can plant a bunch of flowers or a bush and instead of seeding a bottle of bourbon, you can bury a bottle of red wine.
7. The special wine box ritual
This secular wedding ceremony idea would allow you to celebrate both the love you and your partner share and your love for vino and thus would surely excite every wine lover reading this write-up. The ritual would require you both you and your partner to write a love letter addressing each other. You and your spouse are the ones to decide what kind of content the letters would have. You can write down how you felt when you first met the person, the reasons why you have picked this person to be your partner for life, the dreams you have for your future, etc. Next, you will have to work together for creating an attractive decorative box that is big enough for accommodating a bottle of your favorite wine. The box can either be purchased from a well-known store selling such items or can be made at home; you can ask special people (it can be friends or relatives) in your life to make the box for you.
Now, you will have to buy the bottle of wine you will be storing in the box. You can pick any wine of your choice, it can be champagne, Prosecco, sparkling wine, or whatever you and your partner love drinking.
On the wedding day, the person officiating the ceremony would place the letters and the bottle of wine into the decorative box and seal it. You should inform your wedding officiant that you would like to have this ritual on your wedding day beforehand as he would need to prepare a speech for the ceremony (the speech is usually delivered before putting the objects inside the box). The sealed box will be opened on your 5th anniversary. The wine bottle would get uncorked and the letters would be read out respectively by you and your spouse to mark the auspicious occasion.
8. Unity candle lighting
This is one ritual that is practiced even in religious wedding ceremonies. However, the ritual doesn’t have any link with any particular faith. According to experts, this custom is fairly simple and symbolizes new marriages. You will have to begin by picking three candles; the first one would symbolize you, the second one would symbolize your spouse, and the remaining one would symbolize your marriage and unison. It would be good if the third candle is bigger than the remaining two; however, that’s not mandatory.
The first two candles will have to be lit respectively by parents of the groom and bride prior to the ceremony. As the ceremony would begin, the officiant would be narrating a script detailing the significance of marriage and life-long partnership. At the end of the speech, he would ask the bride and the groom to light the third candle together with flames from the other two candles.
9. Time capsule
The best thing about this ritual is that it would not only involve the groom and the bride but can also involve their near and dear ones. You and your partner would need to write a love letter addressing each other for every decade of anniversaries. Put the letter in envelopes, seal them, and put the date on which you will be exchanging those letters on the sealed envelopes. Next, you would need a box that would accommodate all those letters; the box should be good looking enough to match the significance of the event. On the day of your wedding, all those letters will be put into the box by your wedding officiant. You can also get your family members and friends involved in this ritual by making them write letters with advice for every single decade of your marriage.
10. Jumping over the broom
This ritual requires placing of a broom on the floor of your wedding venue. The couple would need to step over or jump on the broom together. This action of the couple symbolizes moving ahead together leaving the past behind. The ritual can be done both by using the regular broomstick we have in our homes and with a decorated broomstick designed specifically for weddings.
One of the biggest challenges people face when having a secular wedding is the difficulty in picking a suitable wedding venue. As they are not following any particular faith, they cannot tie their knot at a church or a temple. The fact is that a secular wedding can be organized at any place of your choice. It can be your backyard, an amusement park, a hotel, or any other place of your choice. You can even opt for destination wedding if you are ready to spend freely.
You would also need to be careful even when picking your wedding officiant. Unlike religious weddings, non-religious ones cannot be conducted by representatives of any particular religion (for instance, a rabbi or a pastor). Such weddings are conducted by individuals who have been legally ordained for marrying you.